HERE I AM. SEND ME.
29th Ordinary Sunday A
Isa. 45:1-6; 1 Thess.1:1-5; Mt. 22:15-21
History is full of stories of kings and emperors. A philosopher remarked that kings were glorified gangsters. Gangsters took over leadership, and that gang unified the others to establish little kingdoms. There they made themselves lords and kings but there are also those like the Romans or Japanese who claimed to be gods or sons of gods.
Israel was the only nation that was different. They had no kings except judges, prophets, priests. Only later, upon their insistence, God sent anointed kings or servant kings to lead His people. In their moments of unfaithfulness, Israel was made to realise that God could also use foreign kings to punish them or save them. There were kings like Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Cyrus of Persia, God’s Sent.
Today as we celebrate World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis is reminding us to give back to God what belongs to God. First he invites us to step out of ourselves for the love of God and neighbour. Secondly, we are the Father’s missionaries with Jesus the Missionary because we are sons and daughters of God in the Church. Thirdly, that we as Church, witness and proclaim the Gospel of love and the love of God. Fourthly, that Mission is our free and willing response, flowing from a personal relationship of love. Finally, we are called to rediscover the need for social and communal relationships during this pandemic and empathise with the plight of the quarantined and deprived. Hence the reason for the theme: Here I am. Send me. When God asks: Whom shall I send? He expects: “Here I am send me!” That’s when we render to God what belongs to God. We give ourselves to Him, to be sent and point out the God of Love in our midst.
At this point in the gospel, something else is happening. A test is in progress. Religious people like the Pharisees were setting a trap for Jesus. Instead it was Jesus who taught them:
- That everything, all life, Caesar’s rights, power and possession were God’s.
- That Caesar was like Cyrus of Persia, a foreign king, chosen and sent to “save Israel-God’s people”.
- If they were lawful, then they were servant kings, and it was alright to pray, to cooperate and to respect them and their governance.
When we say “render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”, it means:
- To God, belongs our first love, which includes loving the God-appointed king or government.
- To see the emergence of the kingdom of God, indicated by the prevalence of justice, peace, love, unity and equality. In addition, the Kingdom consoles, strengthens, welcomes and includes.
- To view ourselves, as servants of God, not government servants, enforcing just law and not unjust law.
- He taught us to pay our taxes, without cheating to build the nation where it benefits all and the poor, ensuring the quality of life, and giving the best of ourselves.
- To build His Kingdom and send forth the missionaries of the good news.
All of us even Caesar has to render or give an account to God. No one is exempted. No one is higher than God. When we see everything is mission then it becomes a rendering to God. What we do for God, we do for neighbour: and what we do for neighbour we do for God.
“RENDER TO CAESAR WHAT BELONGS TO CAESAR; RENDER TO GOD WHAT BELONGS TO GOD. THAT’S YOUR MISSION.”